Greece Culture: Dance: The Hasapikos dance
The Hasapikos dance is in a rhythm of 2/4, with songs for this dance usually in a slow to medium tempo (in contrast to the faster hasaposerviko, the hasapiko sometimes referred to as 'argos', which means slow, or 'vari,' which means heavy). It is typically for two to three dancers with their hands on each other's shoulders, with variations indicated by a leader and followed by the others, with a basic step returned to and alternated with numerous variations, formerly indicated by hand pressure on the shoulder of the adjacent dancer (though now often spoken). This dance, which comes from the word for 'butcher' (hasapis) refers to the time when there were butchers' guilds. The true hasapiko, like the genuine zeybekiko, were not aimed at impressing spectators, though by the 1950s (when whole orchestras of bouzoukis played on stage in clubs) decadence had set in.
Two rather spurious dances associated with the hasapikos are the syrtaki and Zorba's Dance. The name of the first literally means 'little syrtos' but the syrtaki has no connection with the syrtos, being clearly a form of the hasapikos, though a very recent creation, and much flashier than hasapikos (though flashy forms of the original dance were being performed during the 60s for tourist consumption). Zorba's Dance was a choreographed dance created for the film, Zorba the Greek, in which film the santouri (the instrument of Alexis Zorbas in Kazantzakis, and an instrument much beloved) is shown only once, and (as noted by an accomplished player of that instrument), upside down. These dances, and the soundtrack of the film, composed by Mikis Theodorakis, which is in the style of the latter day off shoot of rembetika known as 'laika ', with the bouzouki as main instrument, all reflect the extreme turning away from traditional music and dance in Greece, and its replacement by lighter, more commercial modern creations, sadly believed by both many Greeks and foreigners alike to represent the very tradition that has been largely rejected.
Though the older rembetika was indeed an urban music, it had some of its roots in the folk music and urban music of Asia Minor, (the latter deeply entangled with Turkish music, with many of the same songs sung in both Greek and Turkish, and with shared dance rhythms), and the songs out of a powerful, uncensored source. The latter day rembetika of the 50s, though much loved by many Greeks, and which also included some fine songs, was a music that had gone 'high class', with lyrics purged of the kaimos (roughly angst,or heart-ache), the love of the sacred hash that inspired music and the heroin that killed the forlorn , the jails and the 'manges' (the tough guys) who flaunted the law. There is much written about the subject of rembetika, and, happily, some of the music of its 'classic' period is being played again in Greece (though far many more play the 'laika' of the last three and a half decades.